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®: CRE Regulatory Action of the Week

MSHA Protects Miner Safety with Help from Depts. of Labor and HHS

The main safety concern regarding mine workers has always been exposure to coal mine dust. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Coal Act) established the first comprehensive dust standard by setting a limit of 2.0 milligrams of respirable coal mine dust per cubic meter of air (mg/m3). Later, the Coal Act was amended by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) which further standardized mine worker conditions by requiring that "each operator shall continuously maintain the average concentration of respirable dust in the mine atmosphere during each shift to which each miner in the active workings of such mine is exposed at or below 2.0 milligrams of respirable dust per cubic meter of air."

This focus on mine worker safety over the years has brought significant improvement to the work environment to the point where in a recent sampling (FY 1998) the average dust level for a continuous mine worker was 1.1 mg/m3, a reduction of a whopping 86 percent from its 1969 level.

This might seem like significant progress, but a review by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 1995 concluded that coal miners in the United States still continued to suffer from increased risk of developing respiratory disease due to their exposure to coal mine dust and thus recommended a time weighted average exposure limit to respirable coal mine dust of 1.0 mg/m3, up to ten hours per day for a 40-hour work week.

With these findings in hand the Secretaries of Labor and Health and Human Services are proposing to further protect miners by initiating the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) comprehensive program to eliminate overexposure to respirable coal mine dust. In order to clear the way for MSHA to conduct a truly effective program, the Secretaries are proposing to rescind a 1972 finding by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare which concluded that a single, full-shift measurement of respirable dust would not accurately represent the atmospheric conditions to which miners are continuously exposed. The passage of such a proposal would enable MSHA to use single, full-shift respirable coal mine dust samples to more effectively identify overexposures and address them.

Click here to read full proposal in Federal Register.

CRE invites all interested parties to submit comments on these issues to CRE's Interactive Public Docket.

Please click below to submit comments regarding Miner Safety.

Miner Safety: Interactive Public Docket

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